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Initial thoughts as Ewen takes up new role

Having just arrived at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust as its new chief executive, I have been overwhelmed by the dedication and passion of my new colleagues. I am acutely aware of how we, like the entire NHS, have been through a difficult few years and face numerous challenges. I would like to thank Craig Black, who stepped up as interim chief executive at a particularly difficult time, for his outstanding leadership and commitment over the last year. He hands on this role in a much stronger position.

As I follow Craig, the challenges continue. At the forefront is the ongoing strike action within the NHS and elsewhere. This action is not taken lightly and I know that previous strikes will have resulted in many of you or your loved ones experiencing a delay to an appointment or procedure, as it has done to those close to me. I understand your frustration and would like to reassure you that if you have an appointment or procedure postponed due to strike action, we will contact you to reschedule this at the earliest opportunity.

While the planned Royal College of Nursing (RCN) strike action at the beginning of March was postponed, there continues to be the risk of further disruption of our services from industrial action. Junior doctors voted overwhelmingly to take industrial action over pay, with strikes planned from Monday, 13 to the morning of Thursday, 16 March. As we have done for the RCN strike action, we will ensure robust plans are in place to best care for those needing our services.

During periods of strike action, if you or your loved ones need urgent care, then please come forward. However, please use our services wisely and consider alternatives to hospital care, such as seeing your GP, visiting your local pharmacy or using the NHS 111 service online or by phone.

I understand that those who made the decision to strike will have done so with a heavy heart, and we support them in their legal right to take industrial action. I do hope these disputes between the government and the unions can be resolved quickly, so that we can continue focusing on delivering high quality and safe care to those in our local communities.

Despite these ongoing operational challenges, work is being carried out across the Trust to improve and transform our services.

Our virtual ward allows patients to return home sooner instead of remaining in hospital, with the comfort and reassurance of being under consultant observation and the care of our expert community teams. Our colleagues are currently working to expand this service, so a wider range of patients have the opportunity to recover at home surrounded by their loved ones. We know that where it is safe to manage patients at home, mobility is better maintained, there is a lower risk of infections and they benefit from being in their own environment. This method of care also increases the number of beds we have available in the hospital, both for those needing emergency care and for patients needing surgery. 

We are making significant progress to deliver a new healthcare facility on the Hardwick Manor site in Bury St Edmunds by 2030. Having gained outline planning permission, we now anticipate confirmation of further details of the project in the coming months. Additionally, we are finalising the plans for the new community diagnostic centre at Newmarket Community Hospital, which will provide quicker access to a range of diagnostic tests for those in the west of the region. It is our ambition to have the centre up-and-running in the spring of 2024. I look forward to providing updates on these major improvements to your healthcare services in due course.

A key objective of mine is to continue improving the culture in which my colleagues work. While significant work has been undertaken already, we know there is more to do to ensure our colleagues feel heard and supported. Feeling confident to speak up and raise concerns is fundamental to creating a culture with safe patient care at its heart, and to improve the experience of work for all my colleagues. This will be a key focus area as the new chief executive.

I look forward to leading this Trust into the future where we will continue to improve the quality and safety of the care we provide to serve the community.

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